COAL UPDATES: 2012 Chevrolet Equinox and 2008 Saturn Astra – The Family Grinders

I have not posted in a while so thought I’d update two COALs which I still have.  First, the 2012 Equinox which was profiled in January of 2019 here.  At the time I reported on an excess oil consumption issue common to this GM motor and there was quite a divergence by the CC community of what do to if GM fixed it, or didn’t fix it.  The consensus was that a modern engine, regardless of manufacturer, simply should not have this kind of failure.  I couldn’t agree more and many suggested emphatically that I’d be best served dumping the car.

So, what happened after I took it to the dealership?  I expected the worst, seeing as it had 120,000 miles on it.  Instead I got a compromise of sorts.  GM offered to split the repair with me 50/50, my cost being $1,275.00, and I had the piston rings replaced.  I had it back in 3 days, and it took care of the problem (so far).  An ancillary problem to the consumption issue that has been reported has not happened, which is damage to the catalytic converter, and let’s hope it doesn’t as the repair cost is significant.  In the end, as my wife drives barely 8,000 miles a year, it made no sense to invest in a new or newer car when we own it free and clear and it gets limited use.  And… with COVID-19 rearing its ugly head now and bringing with it such economic uncertainty, cash is king and despite a big repair bill, a year on, I’m glad I did it.  Hope to keep this bucket of bolts going another 2-3 years or more.  It suits our present and likely future needs, nothing more and nothing less.

On to the 2008 Saturn Astra, profiled here in December 2018.  I had stated that it was by far the most reliable car I’d ever owned, and I still hold to that, sort of.  It never left me stranded, but there was a fair amount of preventative maintenance done to the car to prolong its life in the last year… close to $2,000 worth.  One can argue that the car was barely worth that if I tried to sell it.  I realized this was an interference motor and I’d never had the timing belt replaced, recommended at 75,000 miles and I was on borrowed time.  If it stretched or snapped, it would grenade the motor and spell death for the car.  That on its own was a $700 repair.

Other things done included an ignition coil, struts, ball joints and adding new tires.  The front clip/bumper cover of the car is held to the engine cradle underneath the front end by two Christmas tree plastic fasteners which somehow snapped off.  My 18 year old son thought nothing of driving it with the large plastic tab underneath dragging on the ground for a few days/weeks and ground it down a bit.  It would of taken one reversal over a larger object and it could pulled most of it off the car.  There are fracture marks on the front clip due to all the stress.  At an oil change I had them shoot self tappers to hold it in place, job done.  Oh, and late one night someone sideswiped off the driver’s side view mirror and snapped it off as it sat in front of the house.

Which brings up another point.  This is an orphan car from 2008 and only 18,000 of these were sold in the U.S.  Parts are becoming more scarce, which means harder to find… and more expensive.  No pick and pull yards locally had an Astra.  And… the coupe and the 4 door apparently have different side mirrors.  I ended up finding one on Ebay for $150.00.  I worry about the transmission going.  I have maintained it with fluid services, and it is apparently an Aisin, made in Japan and said to be very stout.  It also doesn’t like to start after topping off the car with gas, not sure why, but after a few tries, it always catches and with the new coil, otherwise runs great day-in, day-out.

The Astra is approaching 150,000 miles and 12 years of ownership since brand new, and when it does hit that mark, it will be the highest mileage car I’ve ever owned.  Barring anything major… we’re going to keep this one going too.  Bottom line, rational or irrational, I like the car, I take pride in owning it for so long, and it suits my teen driver just fine.

Stay safe everyone!  A business executive that heads one of our vendors closed a COVID-19 briefing last week with a statement on our current dire straits.  I rather like its positive tone thus I am going to share it: “I have great faith in mankind to find pathways to help chart new methods of health care to conquer this virus and provide avenues of better governance for future world health challenges.”  Let’s  hope he’s right.